By Monica Hesse
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An “important” (New York Times Book Review), “extraordinary” (Booklist, starred review) novel of conviction, friendship, and betrayal, from Monica Hesse, the bestselling and award-winning author of Girl in the Blue Coat
“A must-read for fans of historical fiction.” —Ruta Sepetys, #1 New York Times bestselling author
It’s 1944, and World War II is raging across Europe and the Pacific. The war seemed far away from Margot in Iowa and Haruko in Colorado–until they were uprooted to dusty Texas, all because of the places their parents once called home: Germany and Japan.
Haruko and Margot meet at the high school in Crystal City, a “family internment camp” for those accused of colluding with the enemy. The teens discover that they are polar opposites in so many ways, except for one that seems to override all the others: the camp is changing them, day by day and piece by piece. Haruko finds herself consumed by fear for her soldier brother and distrust of her father, who she knows is keeping something from her. And Margot is doing everything she can to keep her family whole as her mother’s health deteriorates and her rational, patriotic father becomes a man who distrusts America and fraternizes with Nazis.
With everything around them falling apart, Margot and Haruko find solace in their growing, secret friendship. But in a prison the government has deemed full of spies, can they trust anyone–even each other?
*Don’t miss Monica Hesse’s New York Times bestselling historical mysteries, Girl in the Blue Coat and They Went Left*
Of all the things that happened there, in that place full of enemies and dust and spies and sadness; of all the things Margot said to me—the calculations that sounded like friendship, the casual shattering of my life—out of all those things, I am grateful for only one: that I never loved her. If I had loved her I couldn’t bear any of it, and so I am grateful for this lack of love, this one remaining thing I can bear. Because even if it’s a terrible thing to have, if I didn’t have that, I’d have nothing.
If Haruko said that, she was lying.
She did love me. I loved her too.
“I WISH WE WERE ALL HOME NOW,” TOSHIKO WHISPERS, AS IF I’LL have a different response than I had the last time she said the same thing. She pokes my side to get my attention, which she knows I hate. But I stay serene because it’s part of our unspoken pact, my sister and me, that we’re polite because we’re too afraid to be anything else. And because we promised our mother.
“Your little sister is not your enemy,” Mama told me the last time Toshiko and I argued, which was the first time I learned about Texas. “I know that,” I said meaningfully, and then I didn’t say anything else because I didn’t want to talk about who the real enemy was.
Now my mother sits across from us, wedged beside our stack of suitcases, keeping her back straight so her hat doesn’t get crushed against the seat of the Pullman car. Her eyes are closed. I can’t tell whether she’s sleeping or train-sick, a kind of sick I didn’t know existed until we got on the train and people started making retching sounds into the paper bags provided by the guards patrolling the aisles. For more than a thousand miles now, that hat has been pinned to my mother’s head. Everything else in the car is wilted: her dress, my dress, my sister’s entire body, pressing against mine as I decide not to respond to her last statement. Instead I lean my forehead against the window. Brown grass. Brown dirt. Dirty horses, ridden by men with bandannas over their noses across land that is unbearably flat.
The last time I saw Denver, the sky was clear enough to see all the way to the tops of the mountains.
“Haruko.” Toshiko pokes my side again, below the rib cage.
“Helen,” I correct her.
She rolls her eyes. “Everyone here is Japanese. They can pronounce your real name.”
I will myself to keep looking out the window instead of glaring at Toshiko. “My friends call me Helen.”
“About five people ever called you Helen.”
We’re becoming testy at the edges, not just my sister and me but the whole train, exhausted by three days of politeness and stale sandwiches. My head is pulsing with the screaming rhythm of the train’s motion. It aches in my jaw, in my teeth; my nostrils are filled with oil and smoke. I cover my nose and try to take fewer breaths.
“Helen.” Poke, poke. “Can I look at the letter again?”
I want to tell her no, not because I’m trying to provoke her but because I hate the letter. My mother has heard Toshiko’s question, though, and opened one watchful eye to make sure I do what I’m asked. She loves the letter; they both love the letter.
The letter has an official stamp and a return address explaining the people who sent it are from the Department of Justice of the United States of America. I take it out of my handbag and hand it to Toshiko, who unfolds it reverentially. What does she think will happen if she tears it? They won’t let us in? The whole point of the letter is that they won’t let us out.
Dear Mrs. Tanaka,
You are informed that your application for reunion at a family internment facility with your husband, Ichiro Tanaka, has been approved. Please be informed that the only individuals accommodated through this agreement are Mrs. Setsu Tanaka (age 44), Miss Haruko Tanaka (age 17), and Miss Toshiko Tanaka (age 12). Arrangements will be made for such a reunion at Crystal City, Texas.
Crystal City. We are going to a place called Crystal City. I’d put faith in the name at first, because it leads you to believe you are going somewhere beautiful. A place where there might be a reason to pack nice things. My best dress. My new handbag. My bottle of Tabu perfume.
The train has other families on it, and we’ve gotten to know some of them.
Mrs. Ginoza and her little daughter, from Los Angeles. Old Mrs. Yamaguchi from Santa Cruz. Families with stories that sound exactly like each other’s except for a few details. My mother still politely listens to everyone else’s even though she must know by now how they will end: And then we got on this train.
We were sitting down to dinner; the FBI men didn’t let him finish the meal.
They said it was because we were hiding Japanese correspondence. But it was letters from my mother-in-law that we saved in a hope chest. How could that be hiding?
We knew an attorney, but he said there was nothing he could do; it’s all legal. President Roosevelt issued a proclamation.
Even now, I can hear my mother retelling our own story to the bride across the aisle, the one whose husband was taken two days after their wedding.
“They came on a Saturday morning when Ichiro was still at work and they sat in my kitchen until he came home,” Mama is saying. “They wouldn’t let me telephone him, in case I used a code to tell him to stay away. We had to wait for hours; my husband was staying late to help a guest arrange a hiking tour. He was always staying late to take care of things. The men said he was using his job to pass information between guests traveling overseas.”
She leaves so much out of this story. She leaves out the fact that the Albany, where my father was a night clerk, was the nicest hotel in the city. That some of the guests were Japanese, but most of them were white, and they liked my father, and sometimes brought us gifts from places they’d traveled. Paper fans from Paris, a snow globe from New York City. She leaves out the fact that the governor came in once, and that my brother sold his secretary an orange soda in the hotel’s pharmacy, and I gave her the straw to drink it with. Governor Carr’s secretary told me I had lovely American dimples, and Kenichi and I spent the next week elaborately reenacting this scene as we mopped the floors at the end of the day. “Am-er-ican dimples are fine, I suppose, if they’re all you can get,” Ken would say. “Though I prefer my dimples to come from France.”
Somewhere in the telling of this, when we imitated the secretary we started giving her a posh accent that she didn’t actually have. “Did I say American dimples? Heavens, I meant American pimples.” Nobody else thought it was as funny. Nobody else ever thought our things were as funny as we did.
On the day the agents came to our apartment, I wasn’t helping out at the soda fountain. Ken had left to become an American war hero by then. Papa and Mama didn’t want me to work there alone.
What I was doing was putting on my volleyball uniform because I was going to meet some of the other Nisei girls from the California Street church. My mother called me out of the bedroom to translate for her; I still had rollers in half my hair. It took a while for me to figure out how to explain what the men wanted. Some of the terms I didn’t have translations for. What is subterfuge? I asked one of the agents, who thought I was being cheeky.
When my mother tells the story, what she leaves out is my whole life.
A little while after the letter from the government arrived, a separate one came from my father, addressed to my mother but written to all of us—in English, I was sure whoever monitored his mail had insisted it be in English, so I had to be the one to read it out loud. There is a beauty salon, he wrote. A grocer’s. They are building an American school and a swimming pool: one hundred yards in diameter with a diving platform! People can have jobs, for extra money, but everyone receives housing, and tokens for food and clothing, whether they have jobs or not. You will like it.
The least my father could have done would have been to refuse harder, to tell my mother he forbade us from coming to Texas. Instead when she insisted we were coming, we got cheerful snippets that sounded like a vacationer’s postcards, with exclamation points that my father would have called vulgar if I’d used them myself: So many Japanese people! Movies shown for free in the community center! Haruko, tell your mother that the hospital is looking for volunteers, and also that some of the women have started a tofu factory, right in camp!
This is how my father tried to make us excited about the barren desert of Texas. A tofu factory.
I did tell my mother about the hospital, and I watched her light up. My mother, who graduated from the Tokyo Women’s Medical Professional School, who never officially became a doctor because instead she moved to America to marry the stranger-son of a family friend, and who never became fluent in English, and who instead made it her profession to worry about the length of my volleyball uniform.
Personally I would worry about a place that allowed a woman twenty years out of medical school to volunteer as a doctor, but my mother lit up and so I said nothing. Serene.
Toshiko jabs me with her elbow. The train has slowed and the brakes are creaking. “I think we’re stopping,” she whispers to me. “I think we’re picking up more people.”
“Maintenance break,” I whisper back. “Window shades.”
If it were an actual station, the guards would have told us to pull down the window shades. They do that at every stop, though they haven’t said whether it’s because they don’t want us to be able to see where we are, or because they don’t want people in the towns to see us.
But no, it turns out this time Toshiko and I are both wrong. The train car has stopped, fully stopped, without anyone making us pull down the window shades and without any new people standing outside waiting to board. The train is finally quiet, and the quiet is heaven. We all press our faces against the hot glass and nobody yells at us.
The short, pale guard walks the aisles, counting our heads, murmuring the numbers under his breath. When it’s clear he has the number of people he’s supposed to have, he tells us to line up. Keep orderly, no need to rush, leave the suitcases, someone will bring them.
I feel the shove of the heat as soon as the train door opens. It can be hot in Colorado sometimes, but this is hot like putting your face in front of an oven. It feels unnatural and stagnant and rolls thick into the train. I watch as every person ahead of me pauses at the door, swaying against the force of the heat, before they step down.
We’re at a station. Or, really, more of a stop because there’s no station building, just a sort of gazebo: rusty beams supporting a metal roof with a bench in the middle of the open space. A hanging sign: CRYSTAL CITY.
After we’ve all finally gotten off the train and been counted again, there’s confusion. A bus was supposed to be here to take us to the camp, but apparently it’s broken down in the heat and now we’re stranded. The man who delivers this news, a Caucasian man in a suit with sweat at his temples, is apologetic about this “development.” He keeps telling us that if we’re willing to be a little patient and wait—
If we’re willing to be a little patient and wait, I translate for my mother.
“Then another bus will come,” the man says. He has thinning hair and a round face; he’s tall and blocky looking. I can tell that he’s a boss of some kind. He has a clipboard; other people who look like employees scurry over and whisper things while he makes notes.
Then another bus will come.
Here’s what’s around us: A post office with an American flag. A tiny weathered restaurant. A boardinghouse I wouldn’t want to stay in. Low one-story houses, standing far apart from one another. In Denver we lived on the upper floor of a duplex. In Denver you were never more than a flight of stairs away from borrowing a needle or a tin of shoe polish.
While I’ve been orienting myself, other passengers have been talking. The more vocal ones, like Mrs. Ginoza, who persevered in asking for extra water for her daughter while my mother told Toshiko and me to swallow our own spit, have decided they don’t want to wait for the bus. Somehow it’s been decided we’ll walk to camp: What’s one more mile after the thousand we’ve already traveled?
The sweaty Caucasian man doesn’t like the way it looks to have a bunch of tired women and children marching in their best traveling clothes, but we’re already doing it. Mrs. Ginoza has spotted a sign so we follow her out of the tiny town, which has no glass buildings, nothing resembling crystal. Past some fields, which the man says are spinach. “Crystal City is the Spinach Capital of the World” is actually what he says, like he can regain control of the situation if he pretends it was his idea to be a walking tour guide. “We’re very famous for our spinach here; we have a statue of Popeye the Sailor,” he says, and I’m almost embarrassed for him. The sun is directly overhead and my dress is damp with sweat, first under my arms, and then as we walk farther, all of it, clinging to my legs and my waist.
And then, when my tongue is so swollen from thirst that there is no more spit to swallow, we’re standing fifty yards from a gate. Behind it, a swarm of faces, the reason we’re all here to begin with.
Our fathers and husbands crane their necks. They must have been told we were coming; a few hold up a welcome banner. Vaguely, through the sweat pouring down my face, I am aware of a brass band playing, and even more vaguely I see that it, too, must be part of our welcome ceremony.
At first I think my tired eyes are playing tricks on me, but it’s true: A few of the men in the background have light hair and Caucasian features. German prisoners. Something else Papa told me about the camp. We’ll share our space with Nazis.
“I don’t see your father,” Mama whispers anxiously.
I scan the crowd, landing on a fence post. A girl sits on it, frizzy blond hair, bony knees balancing a notebook in which she’s recording something. She looks official like a camp employee but too young, close to my age. I should have realized that the German detainees would bring their own children. She scans the crowd, too, gawking at the new arrivals, and her eyes lock on mine for a brief moment before she bows her head and writes something else. I raise my eyebrows in annoyance. I have had too many people with notebooks check me off their lists. Too many noting when we’ve eaten, slept, used the bathroom.
It’s my father. My father. I haven’t seen him in five months. My heart jumps before I remember that I’m not sure how I feel about seeing my father now, that the last time I saw him was strange.
He seems thinner, gray at his temples, standing near one of the other fence posts and waving a handkerchief over his head like a flag. I hear him before my mother and sister do. When he catches my eye, the handkerchief falters and I see something in his face that looks like uncertainty. “Helen,” he tries again. It’s not uncertainty, it’s hopefulness, willing me to look in his direction. Toshiko was right. Only the other popular girls at school called me Helen. My family never did. He is trying so hard. I should be so happy. “Helen, I’m over here.”
I nudge my mother. “There’s Papa.” My mother’s eyes scramble until she finds him. Then she breaks into a smile and, with my wrist clamped in her hand, she rushes toward the entrance gates, toward the fence.
The chain-link fence surrounds the camp on all sides. Ten feet tall, topped with barbed wire, and the corners that I can see are occupied by guard towers and soldiers with guns.
My father didn’t mention this in any of his letters. It must have slipped his mind. Here in Crystal City, Haruko, we have outdoor movies, a tofu factory, and jagged, sharp fences guarded by men who will shoot you if you try to leave.
It’s funny the things you can leave out. It’s funny the way you can paint a picture that is both completely true and the falsest thing in the world.
My father doesn’t come out to greet us because he lives inside this fence. He brought us to this fence. And even though I know that I’m supposed to be excited to see him, I can’t help but think that when my mother said, Your sister is not the enemy, what I wanted to ask was, Is my father?
Suddenly, my left arm wrenches. While my mother is trying to move us forward, Toshiko is pulling my other wrist back, her mouth a wide O of panic.
“Stop it, Toshi, you’re hurting my arm.”
“I don’t want to go in.”
“Don’t be silly, you’ve been talking about it for days.”
“Now I don’t want to,” she shrieks. I can feel her about to cry.
“Toshiko, stop it. If you want to see Papa, you have to come this way.”
My mother is still trying to press us forward. Through the crush of bodies, her hat tips forward; a sprig of blue petals bobbles like it might come loose. I turn back to my sister, who is still a mule in the mud. “I wish we were all home now,” Toshiko says. “I wish we were picking up Papa, and then we were all going home.”
She’s crying, wet and sniffly, and as she tries to enlace her fingers with mine, I jerk my hand away. Without meaning to, I pull that same hand back and slap her across the face.
My fingers sting at the contact with Toshi’s soft baby skin. Her mouth falls open and she reaches to where there are four white finger-shaped lines appearing on the side of her face. “Haruko—” she starts, because I’ve never hit her before, and because I did it hard.
I’m breathing heavily, we both are, and the regret I feel is mixed with a nauseating kind of relief, because slapping my sister feels like the first true thing I have done in months.
“This is home now,” I tell her, as she gulps back new sobs. I pull out a handkerchief, waiting while she wipes her face. “No more wishing. This is home.”
August 24, 1944
Children: 63 (girls—37; boys—26)
Total arrivals: 107
New total in Crystal City: 3,368
ALL THE NEW DETAINEES ARE JAPANESE THIS TIME. I PUT THAT IN MY notebook, too. Total Japanese detainees: 2,371. Total German detainees: 997.
Within my totals, there are subtotals: German-born prisoners who have come from Costa Rica. Japanese-born prisoners from Peru. America has agreements with those countries, saying that Crystal City will house their enemies of the state in addition to our own. One of these girls has a Betty Boop decal on her handbag, so they must be American.
I check my notes from the last arrivals. This is the smallest group since I’ve been here. Smaller train? I write. Not enough housing for more people?
All the new detainees are inside the gate now. The fathers who have already hugged their families proudly introduce them around. One of the camp nurses, in a white uniform, funnels people through the medical tent for vaccinations and exams. Whooping cough. When my group came, fifty-four of us had whooping cough.
Mr. Mercer, a head taller than anyone else and looking upset, has taken off his suit jacket. There are circles of sweat under the tan of his shirtsleeves. His shoes are dirty. The bus must have broken down.
Is this shipment smaller because the country is running out of Japanese people to put into camps?
“Good morning, Margot.”
I swivel to a man’s voice, shielding my eyes against the sun. Thin lips, dark hair, a little older than my father. He starts to raise his right arm. “He—”
“Hello, Mr. Kruse,” I interrupt, because I can tell how his greeting was going to end, and I’m still not used to it.
“Keeping an eye on everything for us?”
“Staying occupied. School will start soon,” I say, though he probably knows that already. He has a daughter. “There was a delay, I guess, but they finished the buildings.”
“The German school for you, correct?” When I shrug instead of respond, he raises an eyebrow. “Not the German school?”
I wonder if I should have nodded. The camp’s chapter of the Bund advised German parents to send their children to the German school instead of the federal school. It’s been published in Das Lager, spread among housewives. But Federal High School will be certified, with American teachers, like every other school in the United States. The German school will use a curriculum the Bund decides is appropriate. Mutti and Vati would never make me go to the German school.
“Heidi will be disappointed,” he says. “She still talks about you. I’ll send her to visit sometime, if she won’t be a bother.”
“Of course not, I like Heidi.” She and I came on the same train; she’d been staying with an aunt until her parents sent for her. I helped unwrap her sandwiches; I told her stories about a girl from the Swiss Alps who shared her name.
Over by the fence, the newly arrived women straighten their children’s collars and smooth down hair. After vaccinations, the next part of orientation is a family portrait. Every family is given one to hang in their Crystal City hut. Nobody ever expects it.
“What has your father been up to?” Mr. Kruse takes a cigarette out of his breast pocket and lights it, turning his head to blow the smoke away from my face. It’s so hot it’s hard to tell the difference between his cigarette vapors and the wavy lines of heat on the horizon.
“He keeps busy,” I say neutrally, but his question has put me on alert. “Mutti got permission for a garden but she can’t be on her feet much. Vati’s building planter boxes.”
Mr. Kruse looks amused. “Spending money on seeds when the US provides food for free? I wouldn’t. Might as well take advantage of this prison. Drain their resources.”
“Wer rastet, der rostet,” I say automatically.
Mr. Kruse bursts into laughter. “He who rests does grow rusty. I’m glad to hear young people speaking German. Listen, have your father come find me. We could use another man at the swimming pool, especially with his training. We never see him at meetings. Tell him that, too. And your mother if she’s up for it.”
My insides tighten. Now the conversation has officially changed. Mr. Kruse will never see Vati at meetings. One meeting brought us here. He would never go to another. Why did I not just say I was going to the German school? I pretend to look for something in the crowd.
Straight ahead of me, a shock of bright blue. It’s the flowered hat of a tired mother. She is tucked into a tall man’s arm, and her younger daughter is wrapped around his waist.
But she has an older daughter, too, lean and pretty and athletic-looking in a lavender dress. The older girl’s shoulder-length hair is pinned back in a style I could never get mine to behave for. She hangs her arms stiffly by her sides, while her father tries to pull her close.
Don’t be rude. Look away, I tell myself, but I can’t.
While I watch, a piece of blue falls to the ground: a few of the fabric lilies. They land by the lavender girl’s foot, silky and cool against her dusty shoe. She looks down but doesn’t pick the flowers up. I would. We don’t see beautiful things here. I would pick them up and bury my face in them, the way I used to with flowers on our farm. The girl’s dress isn’t quite the same color as the lilies, but almost. Another cool, beautiful thing dropped in the dust. I swallow.
The girl’s cheek is now pressed against her father’s sleeve, and a look flashes across her eyes. Something lonely and defiant that her family isn’t meant to see, that nobody is meant to. Only, I am seeing it. The way her muscles tense. How she keeps her weight on her own feet instead of leaning in to her parents. In the middle of this dust, in the middle of these chaotic arrivals, I feel like I am watching a secret.
I shouldn’t let myself think like this. Not about the girl, not about how much I miss home, not about any of this, so instead I make myself count the lilies on the ground.
Eight lilies. My lips are so dry. It’s so hot.
She pulls away from her father, scanning the camp, and stops when she sees me. She’s noticed me staring. My face flushes red and I quickly look down.
I don’t understand what it would feel like, to finally be reunited with your father and refuse to acknowledge him. On my arrival day, I was sobbing. Vati, too. Only my mother was not, because she was still too hollow to cry. It had been six months since the two of us had seen my father.
I can’t understand not wanting to hold on to your family and never let go.
Mr. Mercer has peeled himself away from the crowd, clutching his clipboard, searching for someone until he spots me and decides I will do. “Miss Krukow, isn’t it? Could you do me a favor?” He wipes sweat from his forehead as he approaches, hesitating when Mr. Kruse coughs next to me. “Am I interrupting?”
Praise for The War Outside:A Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2018A 2019 YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults PickA 2018 BCCB Bulletin Blue Ribbon TitleA 2019 Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People
"Once again, Monica Hesse delivers an incredibly compelling and beautifully researched novel. The War Outside vividly brings readers into an underrepresented and dark period of American history. A must-read for fans of historical fiction."—Ruta Sepetys, #1 New York Times bestselling author
"Monica Hesse takes a setting we think we understand and shifts it in an important way...a tightly plotted exploration of the consequences of fear."—The New York Times Book Review
* "Superb... A satisfying and bittersweet novel, perfect for those who enjoyed Markus Zusak's The Book Thief."—SLJ, starred review
* "An extraordinary novel of injustice and xenophobia based on real history."—Booklist, starred review
* "A moving book that successfully describes an unjust aspect of U.S. History"—Publishers Weekly, starred review
* "Keeps readers guessing through the final pages."
—BCCB, starred review
* "Teens and adults interested in WWII books, especially situations that haven't been written about extensively,will want to experience this story."—SLC, starred review
"Timely...[Hesse] again uses a well-researched historical backdrop to tell a powerful coming-of-age story."—The Washington Post
"Hesse's books are like time machines-vehicles that help us explore our past."—Mashable
"Monica Hesse's The War Outside pierces the heart with its exceptional story of family, friends and country...Riveting and meticulously researched, this story reverberates with authentic voices as it explores adolescent growth under dreadful circumstances."—BookPage
"I did not expect this book to knock me off my feet with its lyrical brilliance, vivid storyline, and heart wrenching ending. Let's just say, if all historical fiction was like this book, it'd be my most-read genre."
Praise for Girl in the Blue Coat:The Edgar Award Winner for Best Young Adult Mystery Novel 2017
A New York Public Library Best Book for Teens of 2016
An Entertainment Weekly Best YA Book of 2016
A Booklist Best Young Adult Book of 2016
A Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People Selection 2017
A 2017 Indies Choice Awards Finalist for Best Young Adult Book
A YALSA 2017 Best Book for Young Adults
A 2017 Bank Street College of Education Best Children's Book of the Year
A 2017 Wyoming Soaring Eagle Book Award Nominee
A 2017 Washington, D.C. Capitol Choices List recommended title
A 2018 Connecticut Nutmeg Book Award Nominee
2018 All Iowa Young Adults Read
"Girl in the Blue Coat is a powerful, compelling coming-of-age story set against the dark and dangerous backdrop of World War II. It's an important and page-turning look at the choices all of us--including young adults--have to make in wartime. A beautiful combination of heartbreak, loss, young love, and hope."—Kristin Hannah, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Nightingale
"A tapestry of guilt and acceptance, growing responsibility, and reluctant heroism, Hanneke's coming-of-age under heartbreaking circumstances is a jarring reminder of how war consumes and transforms the passions of ordinary life. Every devastating moment of this beautiful novel is both poignant and powerful, and every word feels true."—Elizabeth Wein, New York Times bestselling author of Black Dove, White Raven; Rose Under Fire; and the Printz Honor-winning Code Name Verity
"In an occupied city, a young woman's daring transforms into true courage when she confronts a mystifying disappearance. From page one, I couldn't turn the pages fast enough. Enthralling."—Judy Blundell, New York Times bestselling author of Strings Attached and the National Book Award-winning What I Saw and How I Lied
"It's no small feat to bring the past to life, especially a history as dark and desperate as World War II. Monica Hesse does just this with Hanneke's story. Brace yourself, dear reader, to have your heart bruised--and possibly even broken--in the most meaningful of ways."—Ryan Graudin, author of The Walled City and Wolf by Wolf
"Taut and intelligent... the historical setting is rendered the way only an expert can do it."—The Washington Post
* "[An] affecting novel...that skillfully combines reality with fiction. Her characters come alive, and...Hesse's pacing infuses her story with thriller suspense, enriching the narrative with dramatic surprises both small and large."—Booklist (starred review)
* "Riveting... a gripping historical mystery."—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
* "This fast-paced story is alternately touching, heart-pounding and wrenching--but always gripping...a heartrending, moving story."—VOYA (starred review)
* "A poignant, wonderfully crafted story of love and loss, courage and redemption."—Shelf Awareness (starred review)
"[An] intelligent and humane historical mystery."—The Wall Street Journal
"The themes of love, betrayal, heroism, social responsibility, and atonement are beautifully intertwined with well-developed characters and a compelling story line. Thoroughly researched, this work brings history alive in a clear and concise way that rings true. A must-read for fans of historical fiction, especially stories set during World War II."—School Library Journal
"Rich in content and emotion, this is a first-rate companion to the historical tales of the onderduikers, the hidden Jews of Holland, and a compelling read."—Kirkus Reviews
"This heartbreaking story of terror and loss sweeps you into a time-is-running-out mystery that delivers plot twists and a shocking final punch that'll haunt you for days."—Justine Magazine
- On Sale
- Oct 1, 2019
- Page Count
- 352 pages
- Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
About the Author
Monica Hesse is the bestselling author of Girl in the Blue Coat, American Fire, and The War Outside, as well as a columnist at the Washington Post. She lives outside Washington, D.C. with her husband and their dog.
From NOVL Nation
“It was absolutely heartbreaking, and reading these characters made me feel so many emotions. They were so well developed and the writing in this story was so captivating and beautiful. This book also does highlight some LGBTQ+ elements, and I found it quite enjoyable in a historical fiction that takes place during WWII.”
—Kathleen, Read Forever More
“What stood out to me the most is how these type of camps and these types of stories are so rarely talked about. I know this is just one story in an untold number that has finally found a voice. When I reached the end of the story and got to the last chapter, you could have knocked me over with a feather. I had goose flesh at the brilliance of Hesse’s mind.”
—Sara, A Gingerly Review
“It’s raw, it’s real, it’s impactful. For about 80% of this book, all that was going through my head was simply just, wow. Giving this book anything less than five stars just feels wrong.”
—Emmi, Emmi Rose Reads
“The War Outside is a rollercoaster of emotions. This novel highlights family, friendship and importantly, of understanding and basic humanity. It’s so much more than a history lesson. With the twists, you don’t see coming, this novel, and all the emotion it instills will keep you on your toes and unable to stop turning pages.”
—Terrie, Just Another Book B*tch
“I loved the dual perspectives and how well the author put you into each girl’s shoes. I also enjoyed the author’s writing style. It flowed easily and sucked you into the story.”
—Jessica, Odd and Bookish
“Haruko and Margot’s friendship is deep, transcends cultural barriers, and does not define their relationship along platonic or romantic lines. I know that this kind of storytelling is infuriating for some, but I always enjoy it when a writer let’s a bond speak for itself without definition.”
—Kate, Snarky Yet Satisfying
“The War Outside is a worthwhile read. It reinforces lessons I already knew by heart and teaches me others that I will always keep with me.”
“I think the two point of view gave a special something to the novel because the reader was able to see what the camp was like for both girls and their families. They were able to build this terrifying and unstable world for the reader that was real and heartbreaking. This was definitely a darker read, but one that I thoroughly enjoyed.”
—Alex, The Blonde Bookworm
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ON THE BLOG
LB School: How did the ideas for each of your books come to you, and why did you feel that they were stories that needed to be told?
Monica Hesse: While I was doing some research for a previous book, I came across a black and white photo of a young woman in a tiara, wearing a corsage. It had obviously been taken at a school dance; the caption said the girl was 16, and the prom queen of Federal High School in Crystal City, Texas. It also explained that Crystal City was an internment camp. This completely blew my mind. If your education was like mine, Japanese internment in World War II was skimmed over in history class—maybe something you’d talk about for a day or two. I didn’t know much about individual experiences, and I was completely drawn to this young woman in the photograph. What would it be like to be the prom queen of your internment camp? What kind of internment camp would even have such a thing?
It turned out that Crystal City also had a football team, cheerleaders, a beauty salon—and that hundreds of teenagers, Japanese-American and German-American, grew up there, trying to eke out a regular American existence against the backdrop of imprisonment. I’m always looking for stories like that: what is it like to be a normal teenager in an abnormal time, and impossible circumstances? My two main characters, Haruko and Margot, are now prisoners through no fault of their own. Their families are falling apart. Their worlds are upended. And they have to ask themselves: in a camp full of people the government says are spies, who can they trust? How do you know who the enemy is, when your country says it’s you?